||In Dayton, Ohio, the decade begins with an affiliation swap between NBC affiliate WDTN and ABC affiliate WKEF-TV; the swap is reversed in 2004.
||Black Entertainment Television launches in the United States as a block of programming on the Nickelodeon TV Network; it won't be until 1983 that BET becomes a full-fledged channel.
||After 29 years on the air, the soap opera Love of Life airs its last episode on CBS.
||Bob Hope's Overseas Christmas Tours, a two-part six-hour retrospective of Bob Hope's more than 30 years of entertaining at military bases and hospitals in the U.S. and abroad, airs on NBC.
||Walter Cronkite announces his retirement from the CBS Evening News, which takes effect in March 1981.
||The first regularly scheduled use of closed captioning on American network television occurs on ABC, with captions of spoken dialogue added to programming received through a decoding unit attached to a standard TV set.
||On the season finale of Dallas on CBS, J. R. Ewing is shot by an unseen assailant, leading to the catchphrase "Who shot J.R.?".
||In Jacksonville, Florida, NBC affiliate WTLV, in search of stronger programming, swaps affiliations with ABC affiliate WJKS. The swap will be reversed in 1988.
||The Oldest Living Graduate, a live drama on NBC, is broadcast; the first such program on the network since 1962. The production is aired from Southern Methodist University and stars Henry Fonda, George Grizzard, and Cloris Leachman.
||WMDT in Salisbury, Maryland signs on, giving the Delmarva Peninsula market its first full-time ABC affiliate. It also takes WBOC-TV's secondary NBC affiliation, leaving WBOC-TV as a full-time CBS affiliate.
||The NFL Draft is televised for the first time on ESPN.
||Ron Howard and Donny Most leave the cast of ABC's Happy Days as regulars, following the episode "Ralph's Family Problem". When Happy Days returns in the fall, Henry Winkler is given top billing in the opening credits.
||NBC airs The Not Ready For Prime Time Players' final episode on Saturday Night Live, after five seasons.
|CBS broadcasts Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders. The Saturday afternoon game was the first full American network telecast of an NHL game since Game 5 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals aired on NBC. Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals also turned out the last NHL game on American network television until NBC televised the 1990 All-Star Game.
||The Cable News Network (CNN) begins broadcasting.
||Hollywood Squares presents its 3,536th and final network telecast on NBC, ending a 14-year daytime run; it remains the second-longest-running daytime game show in the network's history, behind the original 1958–73 run of Concentration. Two other NBC game shows, High Rollers and Chain Reaction, end their runs on this date as well.
||The David Letterman Show debuts on NBC. Letterman's humor does not go over well with a morning audience, and the show is canceled in October. Letterman would stay at NBC and go on to host a late night show on the network two years later.
||The ABC game show Family Feud moves from airing at 11:30 am ET to 12:00 noon. It is one of the few network daytime shows to survive at noon, a time slot where many stations preempt network fare for local news broadcasts.
||The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA launch a three-month strike against television and movie studios. The strike greatly delays US networks' fall seasons (some shows don't see their fall debuts until late October or November, if not much later), and prompts a union boycott of the 1980 Emmy Awards in September. The unions would ratify a new deal on October 25 to officially end the strike.
||Ending a failed experiment, the NBC soap opera Another World airs its last regularly scheduled ninety-minute episode. The show returns to sixty minutes on August 4, allowing room for a spin-off, Texas, based around Beverlee Mckinsey's Another World character, Iris Cory Carrington.
|The 24/7 cable movie network Cinemax launches.
||In Atlanta, Georgia, long-time NBC affiliate WSB-TV swaps affiliations with ABC affiliate WXIA-TV, citing a stronger affiliation (at the time, NBC is in last place among the three major networks). Over the summer, in preparation for the switch, both stations had conducted an experiment unusual for a market Atlanta's size: WXIA-TV aired NBC's daytime programs in the morning and ABC's afternoon programs, and vice versa for WSB-TV.
||The CBS comedy Archie Bunker's Place begins its season with the episode "Archie Alone", in which Archie Bunker grieves over the death of wife Edith (prompted by Jean Stapleton's departure from the series). Carroll O'Connor's performance in this episode earns him a Peabody Award.
||Saturday Night Live premiers its sixth season on NBC with a new cast and new writers under the reins of Michaels' replacement Jean Doumanian, to widespread negative reviews.
||Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters (Barbara, Louise and Irlene Mandrell) makes its debut on NBC, with a special guest appearance by Dolly Parton. The show was the last variety show on network TV with over 40 million viewers.
||The mystery of "Who Shot J.R.?" is solved on Dallas; the revelation that Sue Ellen's sister Kristin (played by Mary Crosby) did the deed) draws a record number of viewers.
||Eddie Murphy made his first Saturday Night Live appearance, appearing in a non-speaking role in the sketch "In Search Of The Negro Republican".
|WPDE-TV in Florence, South Carolina signs on, giving the Pee Dee market its first full-time ABC affiliate.
||On ABC, Howard Cosell announces the murder of former Beatle John Lennon in the closing seconds of a Monday Night Football game. NBC also reports the murder of Lennon, interrupting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for a news bulletin.
||NBC Sports broadcasts the New York Jets 24–17 season-ending victory over the Miami Dolphins without announcers, the only time that has ever been done with an NFL game.
||WVGA in Valdosta, Georgia signs-on the air and targets the neighboring Albany market, giving that market its first full-time ABC affiliate.
||After 26 years on the air, 20 of which were on NBC, the network announces that the long-running anthology Disney's Wonderful World will not be on its fall 1981 schedule; however, the show will be picked up by CBS.
||June Diane Raphael
||Actress (Burning Love, NTSF:SD:SUV, Grace and Frankie)
||Actor (Teen Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
||Actress (The Inside, Alias, Criminal Minds, Continuum)
||Actress (The L Word, Fairly Legal, Person of Interest)
||Actress (New Girl) and singer
||British singer and voice actress (Steven Universe)
||Actor (Malcolm in the Middle)
||Actor (House of Carters) and singer (Backstreet Boys)
||Actor (That '70s Show, Handy Manny)
||Russian-born actress (Vanished, Revenge, Allegiance)
||Actor (Drexell's Class, Brotherly Love, Boy Meets World)
||Actress (Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Chuck)
||Actress (Pan Am)
||Actor (Joan of Arcadia, The Class, Parenthood, Gravity Falls) and son of John Ritter
||English actress (Boardwalk Empire)
||Actress (That '70s Show)
||Actor (One Life to Live)
||Musician (Fall Out Boy)
||Actress (Raising Hope) and singer
||Actress (Battlestar Galactica, Longmire)
||Actress (General Hospital, Grimm, Chelsey and Kelsey)
||Canadian actress (Smallville, Stargate Universe, Supernatural)
||Actress (As the World Turns, Dallas)
||Actor (The Secret World of Alex Mack)
||Actress (The Office, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and singer
||Singer and actress
||Actress (The Big Bang Theory)
||Actress (Friday Night Lights, Charlie's Angels, Almost Human)
||Actress (The O.C., Prison Break)
||TV host and actress (Attack of the Show!, The Daily Show, The Newsroom)
||TV host and actress
||Singer and actress (Fashion Star)
||Actress (House of Cards, The Whispers, Zoo)
||Actress (Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, House of Lies)
||Actress (Guiding Light, Californication)
||Actress (Two and a Half Men, Drop Dead Diva)
||Actor (Ugly Betty)
||Actress (It's All Relative, Crumbs, Psych, Back in the Game)
||Actress (Lolita, Totally Awesome)
||Actor (Robot Chicken)
||Canadian actress (Popular)
||Actress (Dawson's Creek) and singer
||Actor (Boy Meets World, Girl Meets World)
||Actress (The O.C., Valentine, No Ordinary Family)
||Actress (Daria, Everwood, Grey's Anatomy) and singer
||Actor (All That, The Nick Cannon Show, America's Got Talent)
||Singer and actress
||Actress (Lab Rats)
||Voice actor (Hey Arnold!)
||Actress (Keeping Up with the Kardashians)
||Actress (The Guild, Team Unicorn)
||Actress (Shark, Falling Skies)
||Actress (The O.C., Resurrection)
||Australian actor (Neighbours)
||Actor (Breaker High, Young Hercules)
||Actress (High School Musical)
||Actress (Sullivan & Son)
|Jenna Dewan Tatum
||Dancer and actress (American Horror Story)
||Actress (Gossip Girl)
||Singer and child actress (Mickey Mouse Club, The Voice)
||Actress (The Practice, Big Day The Fosters)
||Actress (Tru Calling, Dollhouse, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.)